DIAMONDS ACROSS TIME: Q & A WITH ALEX POPOV

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Recently The World Diamond Museum (WDM) published its first proprietary publication: “Diamonds Across Time”. I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Popov, founder of The World Diamond Museum in regard to the book and his opinion on future of the diamond industry and challenges ahead.

||From Alex Popov’s perspective, the diamond industry and trade are almost like a family that mostly keeps to itself. Still, after having been an integral part of it for more than 20 years, Alex Popov continues to think outside the box, and definitely outside the loupe.

Alex believes diamonds are not a commodity. He looks at diamonds far beyond their gemological characteristics and commercial properties.

For him, diamonds are part of the jewellery world, which in turn is an integral part of the world of art, history and culture – his favourite subjects. Everything he does is ultimately related to the human interactions that diamonds generate. Establishing relationships between industry members around the world, working on the projects of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, organising jewellery exhibitions – all these are part of his same desire to encourage interest in diamonds, throughout the supply pipeline, down to the consumer.||

Congratulations Alex on such an incredible and interesting publication, purely dedicated to diamonds and their presence throughout history. I couldn’t put the book down and was amazed by such captivating stories. I am glad to announce that the book has just been released and is available for purchase through https://facetsofmankind.org/shop/

Let’s talk in details about Facets of Mankind (FOM) and Diamonds Across Time.

  • CG: Alex tell us more about Facets of Mankind/World Diamond Museum, and what was the reason behind establishing such organization?
  • AP: Throughout my career I have had the privilege to make the acquaintance of scores of people who are the guardians of public and private collections which most often remain inaccessible to the general public. Seeing and touching all these incredible pieces, I always felt the desire to share this knowledge. So, in 2014 I brought the renowned “India, Jewels that Enchanted the World” exhibition to the Kremlin in Moscow. That exhibition was extremely successful and put my mind firmly on the World Diamond Museum project. Three years later I gathered together several like-minded people from around the world and established the World Diamond Museum. We added the phrase “Facets of Mankind,” to emphasize the human relationship with this magnificent stone. The goal is to preserve the heritage, conduct research and educate the people about diamond and diamond jewellery.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: How do you think FOM/WDM are going to help the diamond industry and reignite the passion for diamonds?
  • AP: First and foremost, by taking diamonds out of the commodity basket into the world of art, history and culture – where they belong. The museum intends to make all beautiful famous diamonds known and, also, to make all beautiful, exceptional and unknown diamond and diamond jewellery collections famous. The World Diamond Museum is to serve as what the Germans call a “Fundgrube”, a Treasure trow, the ultimate source for knowledge and enjoyment of those epical diamonds that tell us a story.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: Circling back to the book, it is such a remarkable publication, how long did it take for all these stories to be put together?
  • AP: We have been busy participating in conferences and consulting other museums and organisations. This work has mostly remained invisible, so we decided to engage in publishing, to reach out to the industry and the general public. Diamonds Across Time is the first such publication. The book consists of ten – seemingly unrelated – essays, written by ten different researchers from different countries. It contains over 300 images, including our proprietary photography of famous diamonds and jewellery, archive documents and even some computer-generated historic diamond reconstructions. It took more than three years of hard work. Our chief curator, Dr. Usha Balakrishnan, together with a dedicated team of researchers, authors, photographers, logistics experts and an army of well-wishers did the incredible work. World famous book designer Misha Anikst designed a completely different book and the results are truly remarkable. I don’t want to recite content that all can read at their own leisure on our website. It is, in my opinion, the most exciting book about diamonds ever, both in design and in the contents. I’m biased, of course, but the first reviews are very favourable.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: My favourite part is the story of the Nizam Diamond. which one is yours?
  • AP: I’m biased towards the Romanov jewels. Their history is interwoven with India, my second favourite country, the cradle of diamonds. Unfortunately, their fate is in a way similar to Indian Royal treasures – wars, revolution, destruction, riots, death and resurrection. The real reflection of human life – the Facets of Mankind.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: What is next for FOM/WDM? Will there be an actual museum to exhibit some of the most extraordinary pieces? Any virtual tours to showcase rare diamonds?
  • AP: If you had asked me this a year ago, I would have said that digital has a bright future, but that it is an uphill battle. The COVID-19 health crisis, with all its drama, deaths, and devastation, was like a tsunami, and very bad one, from an economic and social point of view. But it has also swept away a lot of the barriers that we thought would take years to break through. We are moving slowly to our goal – the creation and population of a full digital museum that will not only impact the industry, but more importantly, also the general public. Recently, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has accepted a definition of a fully digital museum. Again, this would have been thought very difficult to achieve a little as a year ago. Naturally, this opens new opportunities to us, and of course to the museum world at large. Rare diamonds will be showcased online but will also be displayed at exhibitions which are an integral part of the Facets of Mankind concept.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: Please share your thoughts on how digital medium (social media, online shop, online auctions, etc.) is impacting the diamond industry; positive and negative aspects?
  • AP: The digital medium is here to stay forever, technology is perfecting itself and soon we’ll witness new opportunities. It will be extremely positive, and exciting! exciting!. There is, however a certain degree of confusion due to the proliferation of information, often incomplete or just false. Education is needed to navigate this web. We hope to play exactly this role.

Click to view slideshow.

  • CG: How have you been dealing with COVID-19? It is for sure taking a toll on every industry across the globe, how do you think it is affecting the diamond industry and what would be the long-term impact?
  • AP: I don’t want to resort to trivialities. We haven’t yet seen yet or experienced the full impact of the tsunami I mentioned before. There will be many more changes and developments but nobody knows how it will end. At the same time, for those thinking outside the box, opportunity is calling, and the virtual sky is the limit. As I said, COVID allowed us to finish the book. I’d rather finished it a bit later, without COVID.
  • CG: Thank you Alex for your time, you can now purchase a copy of Diamonds Across Time here: Diamonds Across Time